Strong cybersecurity infrastructure needed to sustain digitalisation efforts – Minister

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Deputy Minister For Communications And Digitalisation Ama Pomaah Boateng
Deputy Minister For Communications And Digitalisation Ama Pomaah Boateng

Ms Ama Pomaa Boateng, the Deputy Minister for Communication and Digitalisation, says Ghana had come a long way in its efforts to digitalise the economy in line with the digital revolution of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

She said digitalisation efforts could not be sustained without the development of a strong cybersecurity infrastructure in the country.

Ms Boateng was speaking at the Civil Society Forum on Regulating Cybersecurity through Strategic partnership as part of the National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) 2022.

The month-long celebration is on the theme: “Regulating Cybersecurity: A Public-Private Sector Collaborative Approach.”

The month is to enhance the public-private sector’s understanding of cybersecurity regulations and receive inputs from industry players and stakeholders on the implementation of the various regulatory activities currently being implemented by the Cyber Security Authority (CSA).

It is to build synergies among all relevant stakeholders to ensure compliance with cybersecurity regulations and create awareness of the Cybersecurity Act 2020 and promote the relevance of cybersecurity regulations among children, the Public, Businesses and the Government, whilst highlighting the need for public-private cooperation.

She said digital technologies had increasingly become integral to the effective functioning of societies worldwide and these technologies provided the critical infrastructure necessary for work, play, education, health, business, and shopping as evidenced during the COVID-19 pandemic and the post-pandemic era.
She said the focus of this year’s NCSAM was essential in bringing all stakeholders together and ensuring alignment to issues that affect everyone in cyberspace.

She said the engagement with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) was thus an indication of the government’s appreciation of the role of CSOs in the socio-economic development of the country.

She said it was also because of the commitment to continue working with CSOs concerning cybersecurity development in the country.

Ms Boateng said CSOs were not left out of the digital experiences as they increasingly rely on digital technology and the internet for their operations and service delivery, however, they are increasingly at risk of cybersecurity incidents.

“Cybersecurity attacks on the civil society sector were on the rise,” she added.
The Deputy Minister said civil society groups were faced with sophisticated attacks such as ransomware and phishing, financially motivated cyberattacks which were hitherto mainly targeted at public and private sector organizations.

She said maintaining cyber resilience was, therefore, necessary for ensuring organizational resilience, the ability to prepare for, defend against and recover from cyber incidents when they occur.

She said the Government was committed to ensuring that the rights of citizens offline were equally protected online, and this could best be achieved if we work together.

Mr Benjamin Ofori, a Representative of CSA, said the Authority as part of activities marking Awareness Month sought to collaborate with organisations in the public and private sectors as well as civil society groups in ensuring the safety of Ghanaians in the digital space.

He said internet penetration in Ghana had increased exponentially from 2.31 million in 2012 to 17 million users in 2022, which was 53 per cent of the population; the average time spent per internet user on mobile phones alone was not less than five hours daily.

He said in recent years, several major cyber incidents had significantly impacted businesses, including financial institutions and other critical information infrastructure worldwide.

“As dependency on digital technologies surges, so does cybercrime. Cybercriminals are seizing every opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities against people, businesses and organisations, having a grave impact on the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of systems and networks, including critical information infrastructures,” he said.

He said the proliferation of cyber-attacks targeting individuals, businesses and critical infrastructure had led to the establishment of several mandatory cybersecurity regulations.

Mr Ofori said the implementation of cybersecurity regulations was imperative to deal with both existing and emerging cyber threats, which have the potential to undermine the digital dividends expected from our digital economy.

The Cybersecurity Act, 2020 (Act 1038) provides the regulatory framework to promote cybersecurity development in the country.

The Authority has commenced some regulatory activities, including the protection of Critical Information Infrastructures, according to Sections 35 to 40 of Act 1038; licensing of Cybersecurity Service Providers under Sections 49 to 56 and regulations on cybersecurity incident reporting and response, under Sections 41 to 48 of the Cybersecurity Act, 2022.

He said there was also the National Child Online Protection Framework, which was aimed at tackling the incidents of Child Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, including child sexual abuse material, online harassment, and cyberbullying against children.

The Civil Society Organisations called on the Authority to intensify education on the issue of cybersecurity by using existing channels for education.

They said a lot of the populace was vulnerable on matters of cybersecurity.

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